What we accepted about paperbooks

What we accepted about paperbooks

I’m starting to see a whole new set of people considering e-book readers with the introduction of the “Kindle 3”.

As an inveterate booklover, I’ve addressed this a few times before.  I have something like ten thousand paperbooks in my home, some of them are over one hundred years old, and I’m a former bookstore manager. 

I don’t miss anything not buying new paperbooks. 

I talked about the relative values of p-books and e-books in this one:

“What’s it worth to you?” The relative value of e-books and paperbooks

I addressed it in a humor piece with:

If e-books were first…

 Since the issue has come up again (and will later, when prices drop more and when color comes in, among other times), I thought I’d approach it from a different angle.

We get used to things.

We get so used to things, we can become actually blind to them.

As an educator, I run into that frequently.  I can ask people to use something (let’s say, a button on a computer screen) that has been on the screen in front of them every day for years…and they literally can’t see it.  I have to point to it or tap on it or explain precisely where it is.

The same thing goes with problems.  If they never change, we simply accommodate ourselves to them…and completely forget about them.


I read a great science short story years ago.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of it or who wrote it…if you recognize it, feel free to let me know.  Anyway, this character wakes up one morning.  He just has the sense that something is missing in the room.  He’s trying to figure it and trying to figure it out, and he finally realizes.  What’s missing…is the blurry outline of your nose you can always see.  He has become invisible.  After reading this, you will probably find at random times during the rest of your life that you are suddenly aware of seeing your nose.  🙂


Back with me?  🙂  Good.  If you did read the paragraph, don’t forget, I warned you.  😉

So, let’s take a look, a real look, at what we accepted and pretty much forgot about the negatives of paperbooks:

  • You accepted that, you had to choose which ones to take with you when you went out (I always had at least two, to avoid the horror of finishing a book and not having another one before I got back from the grocery store). 
  • You accepted that, as your eyes got worse as you got older (not everyone’s do, of course), you are going to need more and more powerful glasses. 
  • You accepted that, when you moved, either your friends were going to hate you, or you were going to pay a moving company a lot of money.  🙂
  • You accepted that, when you wanted to find a quotation in something you read years ago, you might have to flip through it page by page.
  • You accepted that, if the house burned down or got flooded or animals got to your books, nobody would replace them for free for you
  • You accepted that, when a super-hot book came out that two people in your family wanted to read, you either had to take turns or buy two copies
  • You accepted that, when you wanted to own a classic book, you had to pay for it 😉 
  • You accepted that, if you wanted to keep your books, you had to pay for bookshelves (if you wanted to keep them handy) and rent/mortgage/property taxes/the storage place to keep them…for the rest of your life
  • You accepted that, you probably couldn’t even read them once without damaging them (especially paperbacks)
  • You accepted that, if you didn’t know what a word or phrase meant, you had to go to another book or a computer to find out
  • You accepted that, you couldn’t read the book while you were driving
  • You accepted that, if you left them in the garage or basement, your books might really smell!
  • You accepted that, especially if they were paperbacks, they were probably going to fall apart no matter what you did
  • You accepted that, you either had to drive some place to get them or wait for them to come in the mail
  • You accepted that trees, toxic chemicals, and gasoline we’re generally going to be used to get books to you
  • You accepted that, you only had a limited time to buy the book new before it went out of print…and then you had to search for it
  • You accepted that, which books you got to read was largely up to the big publishers
  • You accepted that getting books to disadvantaged areas was an on-going, resource intensive activity that some places and people couldn’t afford
  • You accepted that you couldn’t annotate in the book without damaging the book

Let me be clear, I love paperbooks!  I still love going into my floor to ceiling library and just soaking in that they are there.  I love taking a book off the shelf and flipping through it.

I also accept the following things about e-books;

  • I accept that you need to have a device on which to read them, and that may be a considerable initial investment and on-going expense over time
  • I accept that not all books are available on all devices
  • I accept that I can’t get an autographed copy (but they’ll figure that out at some point)
  • I accept that I can’t sell them or give them away
  • I accept that they can’t match the current quality of illustrations (but I think that will change)
  • I accept that publishers can prevent me from doing non-infringing things with my books
  • I accept that I need to use electricity to be able to get and read my books
  • I accept that there are millions of books that are not available in e-book form
  • I accept that I have to be somewhat more careful with my e-book reader than with a paperbook

Well, those are a few of the things that come to my mind.  Anything that particularly strikes you that I didn’t say?  Feel free to let me know.  🙂

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

16 Responses to “What we accepted about paperbooks”

  1. Phyllis Says:

    Very well put!

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phyllis!

      Eventually, we’ll have to tell people what we liked about paperbooks, but that’s a ways off. 😉

  2. becca Says:

    with ebooks, I accept that I cannot easily turn to the back of the book to check a reference, read glossary in an appendix, or even check to make sure a suspenseful book ends happily. Yeah, there’s a workaround (the goto feature) but I have to remember location numbers rather than sticking a handy scrap of paper in to mark my place.

    Oddly, this is what I miss most about paper books. But I love my Kindle anyway.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, becca!

      Interesting, I don’t notice that at all. I’d never ever look at the end of a book to see what happens (but I know some people do that). I find the ability to click on an endnote or a glossary entry, jump right there, and then just use the Back button to get back feels more elegant to me than scraps of paper. I do bookmark (Alt+B) spots from time to time, but I don’t find I need to remember location numbers (except for going from a sample to the full book). It’s true that they don’t have a “GoTo end”, but it does show you what the furthest location is when you go to the GoTo submenu. I think that’s new with 2.5…

      It was fun to be able to grab a bunch of pages and flip randomly ahead. Especially in a dictionary…we flipped around once and ended up with the name of something being the “Patriotic Wasn’t/Was Braindown Ten”. 😉


      And how would Caesar have picked his name in Escape from the Planet of the Apes? 😉


      • Al Says:

        To go to the end of a book just put in a large number like 99999 and it will stop when it runs out, right at the end. Still don’t have to remember location numbers.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing again, Al!

        Well, you can see the last location number when you use the Go to sub-menu, but 99999 might be easier to type. 🙂

  3. Mel Walker Says:

    Excellent post. I think you did a good job summing it up.

    While I don’t have 10,000 books in my home, I had over 1000 novels at one point. I’ve been slowly giving them away to the local library for their fund-raising sales.

    Of course, since I’m a bibliophile, I have to wait until I find all 3 books in a trilogy before I can give it away. 😉

    I got a Kindle last Christmas, and an iPad last month. I read Kindle books on my Kindle, my iPad, my iPhone, and my Mac. I read epub books (mostly free downloads) on my iPad. I’ve read more classics that I’d ever thought I would, and bought as many books as I ever did. I haven’t bought a non-ebook novel since late Christmas. My Barnes & Noble card is going to expire this year. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember, I’m not going to renew it.

    If I want a book, I buy it and read it immediately.

    If I want to have some documentation available, I print it out to PDF and read it online.

    If I want some fanfiction with me, I use one of the only fanfiction packagers and put it on one of my readers.

    If I want a web page, I send it to my kindle or use Safari’s new Reader option and email it. Either way, I have it with me.

    I can read while I eat, because the Kindle stays flat, unlike a paperback.
    My hands don’t get cramped from holding a paperback book open.
    I can never lose my place.
    And books I’ve purchased from Amazon, I can read it on my kindle, my iPhone, my iPad, or my Mac, and it keeps my place on all of them.

    I miss paperbacks a surprisingly little amount.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mel!

      Yes, I like reading while I eat much more with a Kindle. I use the m-edge platform cover, which folds into a nice reading easel. Works very well in restaurants…just used it this afternoon. 🙂

      It’s a booklover’s world now, isn’t it?

  4. eReader1 (Danielle) Says:

    great post!

    you accepted that you needed to hold the book to read it

    you accepted you needed another book to find a definition. And usually had to get up to get it.

    you accepted that you needed a bookmark

    and that you couldn’t get a new book in the middle of the night, while in your jimjams in bed

    or read reviews of the book moments before reading it, still not getting up out of bed in the middle of the night

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Danielle!

      Yes, those are good points! I use the m-edge platform…love that reading easel arrangement. I also use the autoturn sometimes…even easier!

  5. Sherri Says:

    With current ereader technology, I accept that skimming an ebook is more difficult than paperbook.

    With paperbooks, I accepted that the longer the book, the heavier the book.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sherri!

      That skimming thing…that is interesting. On the K1, we could jump ten percent of the book at a time, I think. Hmm…I wonder if it would be satisfactory if we could select the progress bar at the bottom and sort of slide to different points? You still wouldn’t have a “page” drawn until it settled, but that might help.

      The heaviness is a sense we’ve lost, when people talk about the tactility of paperbooks. You can’t really tell if it’s a book with a lot to read when you get it, since the file size might have to do with pictures.

  6. Diane B. Says:

    I had to laugh when I read Mel’s comment about reading while we eat. Yes! Breakfast-time reading is wonderful now. Even with jam-smeared fingers, I can still turn pages with my (hopefully clean) knuckle when I’m using my Kindle. My husband jokes that I haven’t picked up a paper book since Christmas. And me? I still can’t get over the bliss of always having a mind-bogglingly enormous collection of amazing literature that I can hold in one hand, and when I leave the house I don’t need to choose ahead of time what I’m going to feel like reading at any given time (not to mention figuring out where I’m going put all those spare books when I’m packing).

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Diane!

      Yep…it’s interesting, I’m a tad less concerned about spills with a Kindle than with a paperbook. Yes, a spilled glass of water would be worse on a Kindle than on a p-book…but my Kindle is in an m-edge platform, so it isn’t flat on the table anyway. But a spot (like a wet finger) on a p-book is permanent damage, the Kindle can be wiped off.

      It used to be when traveling that I would plan on a seperate suitcase for books, depending on the length of the trip. With the current fees, I’m sure I would have paid extra by now for luggage if I didn’t have a Kindle. 🙂

  7. Al Says:

    If you want an author to sign your Kindle, buy one of the inexpensive sleeve covers and have them sign that. Then when you find another author, you can either use the same cover or use another one. I would suggest one cover per author, but then for all the authors that have signed books of mine, I would have spent zero dollars, because I don’t do that usually.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Al!

      Yes, that’s a good idea. I don’t do signed copies, usually, but it’s good advice. 🙂

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